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Experience a once-in-a-lifetime safari in Tanzania during the annual Great Migration. One of the most spectacular moments in nature is to observe thousands of large mammals on the grasslands of the Serengeti during the Great Migration.

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Tanzania: The Great Migration

One of the most spectacular moments in nature is to observe thousands of large mammals on the grasslands of the Serengeti during the Great Migration. In the winter, more than a million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and Cape buffalo are attracted to the Serengeti by rains that replenish the savannas with fresh grasses. These herds are also followed by lion, leopard, and cheetah. Join us on safari in February or March—prime time to view this amazing once-in-a-life- time spectacle—and enjoy daily game drives and a privately chartered flight, which provides the best way to witness this phenomenal event.

No matter how often one visits the Serengeti its magic never palls. In this wild and open country you feel you could drive forever and never have enough of it. Out on the plains the light is dazzling. Colossal thunderheads trail shawls of rain across horizons wider than the sea, and wherever you look there are animals.

When United Nations delegates met in Stockholm in 1972 to choose the first World Heritage Sites it was the Serengeti that came top of the list. Today it is one of the most famous national parks on Earth, renowned for its magnificent lions but best known for its great migration.

The key players in this 1,200-mile odyssey are the wildebeest – 1.5 million of them – accompanied by 200,000 zebras. For them, every year is an endless journey, chasing the rains in a race for life. The action takes place across 150,000 square miles of woodlands, hills and open plains, a wilderness that includes not only the Serengeti national park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve but also the dispersal areas beyond.

The yearly cycle begins in the south of the park, where half a million calves are born between January and March. But when the rains end in May the land dries fast and the grazing animals must move on, heading for their dry season refuge in the Maasai Mara.

With the beginning of the short rains in late October the migration makes its way back into the Serengeti, so this a good time to be anywhere in the north of the park between Klein’s Camp and the Lamai Wedge. By December, having emerged from the northern woodlands, the herds return past Seronera to mass on their calving grounds again and the circle is complete.

When to travel

Rain is the engine that drives the migration, dictating where the herds will be at different times of the year. While July to October is generally the time to catch the show in Kenya, unusually dry conditions in the southern Serengeti have encouraged the animals to head north far earlier than usual.

Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest began arriving in the central areas of the Serengeti in March.

The rainy season normally runs from October to May. It begins with the short rains – a period of gloriously hot sunny days that end with brief torrential thunderstorms. It peaks in the long rains of April — a month to avoid when most camps close and the plains become quagmires.

When the rains end in May the wildebeest make tracks for the Maasai Mara. Some take Route One – north across the Seronera Valley. Others swing through the Western Corridor, but for all of them the journey is beset with danger. For a start there are the famous Serengeti lions – about 3,000 at the last count – to which can be added leopards and cheetahs, hungry hyena clans and monster crocodiles.

That is the migration’s normal pattern but this year is different. Lack of rain forced the herds to leave their breeding grounds early, driving them into the Western Corridor two months ahead of time. There, lying in wait for them are the notorious Grumeti River crocodiles. Now, at last, rain has come,the river is high and experts are predicting unparalleled scenes of high drama as the monster crocs take their toll.

Zebras are often the first to arrive in the Mara, chomping down the tall grass with the wildebeest hot on their heels. Here they stay from July to October — the main tourist season – when visitors flock to watch the dramatic river crossings.

But as soon as the rains return the wildebeest head back to the Serengeti, drawn towards their calving grounds in the park’s deep south. In the dry season you will see nothing here but an emptiness of dust and stubble. But between January and March when the calves are born there is nowhere on Earth so vibrantly alive.

Tanzania: The Great Migration

Sam Kisonga

Born in the Southern highlands of Tanzania, Sam is an exceptional Kilimanjaro mountain leader; calmly assured, pragmatic and in control. He is a professionally trained and a certified Kilimanjaro guide and attended numerous courses and training on wilderness first aid.

Rob Chekwaze

Rob, a native Tanzanian, certified Wilderness First Responder, a keen naturalist and a climbing guide with over 10 years experience climbing on Kilimanjaro and leading Tanzania Safaris in which he possess a vast knowledge of the guiding business. Rob is based in Arusha, Tanzania and heads Wanderlust’s Kilimanjaro climbing and safari operations.

Tanzania: The Great Migration

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